Slaves in the Early Christian Church

Slaves In The Early Christian Church labored under several disabilities as regarded their Church relations and privileges. This did not arise from any hostility or desire to oppress on the part of the Church, but rather from the necessity of respecting the legal rights of the master.

1. They were debarred from the privilege of ordination, for the reason that; being originally tied by birth or purchase to their patron's or master's service, they could not be legally ordained; the service of the Church being incompatible with their other duties, and no man was to be defrauded of his right under pretence of ordination. If, however, a slave was found worthy, and his master gave consent, then he might be ordained.

2. If the master of a slave was a Christian, his testimony concerning the life and conversation of the. slave was required before the latter could be admitted to the privilege of baptism. The design of this course was to enlist the interest of the master, and prevent the over-hasty admission of unfit persons.

3. The slave could not marry without his master's consent. being. looked upon in this respect as a child; nor could he enter a monastery without this permission, because this would deprive his master of his legal right of service.

4. The privilege of sanctuary was also denied them if it would excuse them from the proper duties of their station. If they fled to a church, they might be reclaimed and brought out immediately. Other facts relating to slaves may not be uninteresting: e.g. exception was made in their favor so that the judge might on Sunday go through the civil process of law necessary for their emancipation. It was thought a highly proper and commendatory act to celebrate Easter by granting freedom to slaves. Further, if the slave of an apostate or. a heretic fled from his master and took sanctuary in the church, he was not only to be protected, but to have his manumission or freedom granted him likewise. See Bingham, Christ. Antiq.

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